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Digital IDs would help unlock Canada's economy, bank group says

(Bloomberg) --Canada needs to embrace digital identification to “unlock the full potential” of banking and the economy, Canadian Bankers Association Chief Executive Officer Neil Parmenter said.

“We should be open to innovative identity verification methods like document review through a live video connection, use of blockchain, biometrics and other methods that have begun to see widespread adoption in other parts of the economy," Parmenter said Tuesday in a lunch speech in Toronto. “These methods have the potential to prove a person’s identity more securely and accurately than showing physical identification.”

The Canadian Bankers Association’s push comes as the country revamps its payments system and the federal finance department seeks public consultations on “open banking,” a process that would let customers share financial data with other companies. The CBA represents more than 60 domestic and foreign banks operating in Canada.

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An exhibitor demonstrates a fingerprint scanning device on a display of Alhua Technology video intercom products in the Zheijiang Dahua Technology Co. Ltd. pavilion at the CeBIT 2017 tech fair in Hannover, Germany, on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Leading edge technologies in the digital world are showcased in this annual event which runs March 20 - 24. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

“With Ottawa exploring the possibilities of open banking, the modernization of our payments system now underway, blockchain and artificial intelligence pushing into new frontiers, the need for digital ID will only grow more urgent,” Parmenter said.

The CBA is urging the country to let go of outdated paper-based processes and move to a "federated model" of digital IDs that links federal and provincial systems and allows identity to be authenticated electronically. The private sector needs to be involved and legislation must be passed to allow businesses and governments to accept digital IDs, the association said.

Canada’s six-biggest banks, along with Desjardins Group and insurer Sun Life Financial Inc., have been collaborating with SecureKey Technologies Inc. for more than two years on such a blockchain-based system called Verified.Me, though it has yet to launch despite its earlier goal of being in place last year. SecureKey CEO Greg Wolfond said “this is definitely the year" for launching Verified.Me.